Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Wild West of Online Communities

Funny how writing about topics perpetuates the subject in conversations. This week I had conversations with multiple people about the Online Communities they either run or in which they participate. In all instances the conversation pinnacled on a specific thought - Is the community in response to a need, or trying to establish one?

Online Communities created for the sake of being an Online Community pose a tough questionWHY?

Why create an Online Community simply for the sake of having one? Does it not make more sense to create one out of a growing need, or better yet, let your community evolve naturally from demand of an existing audience?

With social networking and online community software as abundant and cost-effective as it is today, many are lured in to the idea of creating an online community simply because we can, well in theory anyways. What is the motivation here?

Money of course is one reason. Not in all cases but in many instances it is. The Internet has developed this evasive stigma that you can make money by having an audience. Well, yes, you can, but can you make enough money for the amount of time you put in to it?

Recognition is another reason. I seriously think the desire to have your own online community tantalizes this fundamental human need. We all want to be recognized for who we are and what we do.

Opportunity is one, particularly for business folk and people prone to networking. An Online Business Community holds out some shiny bright lights of opportunity for many of us.

Reality is there is a lot more to establishing an Online Community that most consider, which is why so many come and go. Like websites and software, most people completely underestimate the requirements for success and effectiveness in these areas. And while there certainly are proven methods and best practices for establishing community, the process is certainly organic and requires vision, commitment, and dedication.

This is why I think that Venture Capital can be dangerous. If a person or group start pouring money into developing an Online Community from scratch without having an actual product or service then what is your community accomplishing and where can it go before the funding runs out? Its a tough reality because it is all too simple for us to think we have a revenue model that will work if have an audience. The school of hard knocks will most likely reveal that your audience itself is what will perpetuate the need for, or at least sustain any effort to establish an Online Community.

Like the Dot Com days that reach unfathomable heights, so too is the practice of creating Online Communities becoming a Wild Wild West in online communications.